Holding it in my hand

June 1st, 2010

My copy of Walden and Other Writings is the copy I gave my father for Father’s Day in 1988. I am sure that somewhere in a box sits my first paperback copy from high school with its underlinings and marginalia, but the copy I keep in my library is the one I gave my father and which I took for my own after he died. I inscribed it with a quote of Thoreau’s, his most over-quoted quote, no doubt, but one I chose for a reason:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…

Then I wrote “Happy Father’s Day to the man who taught me the above long before I ever picked up Thoreau. Thank you,”

Twenty years on, it is hard sometimes to distinguish between memories of the actual relationship I had with my father, the real feeling that was there at the time, and the glossed over glow the memory of a dead loved one can take on. Especially after twenty years it would be easy to have created in my mind a relationship far different from the one that really existed at the time. In light of some of my other memories that have revealed themselves as false, I hold this copy of Thoreau with my school-girl’s writing on the fly-leaf, this piece of my love for my father that I can hold in my hand, especially dear.

It was real. He was my father, and I loved and admired him. And I know, and will always know, that at least once in my life before he died, I told him clearly that he taught me how to live a true life, and that I was grateful.

This brings me some peace when the memories shift like mist over the river.


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